Nonverbal Learning Disabilities
Placeholder-Do Not Delete
This is here so we can start with all accordions closed.
What is a nonverbal learning disability or NVLD?
What are some symptoms of a nonverbal learning disability?
Symptoms of a nonverbal learning disability can include the following. Keep in mind, however, that different experts define nonverbal learning disabilities in somewhat different ways and so not every expert necessarily would include every symptom below in his or her definition. Also, a child with a nonverbal learning disability will not necessarily have every one of the symptoms below.
- Poor visual – spatial skills. Visual – spatial skill is the ability to understand location and position. We use visual – spatial skill to do things like assemble a piece of furniture from a diagram or figure out how to place our luggage so it fits in the trunk of our car. Visual-spatial skill is also particularly important in math, since, in math, the location of information often determines meaning. For example, “where” a number is determines the numbers value in concepts such as place value or fractions.
- Difficulty with reading and listening comprehension, especially with drawing inferences.
- A tendency to “see the tree but not the forest,” meaning perceiving specific details but not understanding the overall context or situation or the implications and ramifications of such details.
- Trouble understanding social cues. For example, the child may have trouble reading facial expressions or body language or conversational cues, such as signals that the other person wants to end a conversation. The child may get into other children’s personal space.
- Difficulty picking up on hints and innuendos and a tendency to interpret others literally or concretely.
- Trouble understanding figures of speech.
- Inadvertently and unintentionally making comments that others find rude or off-putting.
- Difficulty joining a conversation.
- Trouble speaking in unstructured situations, such as in a circle of peers chatting / does better speaking in structured situations, such as when doing a class presentation or speaking with a peer one on one.
- Poor math skills, including specifically math fluency. Math fluency refers to the speed and automaticity with which one can retrieve basic math facts and perform basic computations, such as single-digit addition and subtraction.
- Some experts also include slow processing speed and poor motor skills as either official symptoms of a nonverbal learning disability or as common “associated features” of the diagnosis. An “associated feature” is a characteristic that is not part of what defines a disorder but commonly co-occurs with it.
What’s the difference between a nonverbal learning disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder?
There is a lot of similarity between a nonverbal learning disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder. In fact, some experts have argued that a nonverbal learning disability is really a form of Autism.
However, there are differences between Autism and how a nonverbal learning disability is usually defined. Autism includes restricted interests and behavior (e.g. verbal and motor stereotypies, such as echolalia), which are not part of the definition of a nonverbal learning disability. In addition, a nonverbal learning disability is associated with deficits in visual – spatial skills, which is not amongst the defining symptoms of Autism. Some definitions of a nonverbal learning disability also include poor math skills, especially math fluency, and slow processing speed, which are also not amongst the defining symptoms of Autism.
What’s the difference between a nonverbal learning disability and Social (Pragmatic) Communication Disorder?
What can help a child with a nonverbal learning disability?
The specific needs of a student with a nonverbal learning disability will vary based on the individual, but common interventions include the following:
- Social skills training, either privately or as part of Special Education services. Social skills training is often provided by speech pathologists, psychologists, or social workers.
- Speech and Language Therapy, with a focus on pragmatic language. Pragmatic language refers to the ability to apply language appropriately in social contexts and use language effectively interpersonally.
- Private individual and group psychotherapy as well as individual and group counseling at school, aimed at better understanding interactions and relationships and improving social skills.
- Support for math skills, such as Resource Room or other types of specialized math instruction.
- Classroom and test modifications and accommodations, including to support visual – spatial weaknesses, such as multi-sensory math instruction and strategies as well as providing extra explanations, cues, and prompting regarding the spatial aspects of math problems (e.g. where to begin math problems and which direction to “travel” in when solving the problem) and graphic organizers (e.g. the significance of information being under and indented from other information, etc.).